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What Happens If You Don’t Have Enough Work Credits For Disability Benefits?

Last updated: May 8, 2023

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), you must accumulate at least 40 work credits during your lifetime to qualify for Social Security payments upon retirement. The amount of credits required to qualify for SSDI, on the other hand, varies by age. You don’t want to make the incorrect assumption that you don’t have the necessary work credits based on someone else's case. Remember that each scenario is unique.  

For example, if you worked at the same workplace for five years and then got injured, you may believe you lack sufficient work credit — but this may be inaccurate. For instance, if you are 35 years old, you just need 20 work credits to be eligible for SSDI benefits. However, if this happened to your 50-year-old co-worker, they would only need five work credits. 

Again, your age and the length and date of employment at a job that contributes to Social Security will determine the number of work credits required to qualify for SSDI.

Why Do You Need Work Credits For Disability Benefits?

SSDI is an insurance scheme, as its name suggests. The "premiums" for this scheme are deducted from your paycheck by your employer and sent to the authorities on your behalf. This money contributes to funding people's monthly Social Security disability and retirement cheques.

On the other hand, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are funded via general government revenues, such as income taxes and other funds collected by the government. Due to the fact that SSI is not funded by payroll deductions for Social Security taxes, you are not required to pay into the system or collect work credits in order to qualify for these benefits.

How Many Social Security Credits Do You Need To Qualify?

Keep in mind that the number of social security credits required for SSDI eligibility fluctuates with age. If you are between the ages of 31 and 42, you will need 20 work credits in order to qualify for disability benefits.

If you are under the age of 24, you will need 6 work credits. If you are between the ages of 24 and 30, you will require 8 social security credits and two years of employment, while a 30-year-old will require 18 credits and four and a half years of labor.

If you are 27 years old, this means you have accumulated six years of work experience since reaching the age of 21. You will be required to acquire work credits for half of those years, requiring you to have a total of three years of work credits in order to qualify for disability benefits.

Each year, you can earn a maximum of four social security credits. If you earn four credits per year for three years, you will require 12 work credits to qualify for disability payments if you become disabled at the age of 27. If you are over the age of 62, you will require 40 social security credits and ten years of job experience.

What Happens When You Don’t Have Enough Work Credits?

If you don’t have the required job history, you can’t qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits. Your impairment has likely prevented you from working. If you lack the required employment history to qualify for disability payments, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. 

SSI is a government benefit available to persons who are disabled, have little financial resources, and do not meet the work history requirements for SSDI. However, because SSI is a needs-based program, you must fulfill the SSA's family income and asset requirements before proceeding with the benefits application process.

How Can You Earn Work Credits?

Each quarter you're employed in a job that contributes to Social Security earns you one work credit. Through payroll taxes, you "purchase" Social Security. According to SSA, you must earn at least $1,410 every quarter and $5,640 per year to obtain a single work credit in 2020.

For instance, an employee who works at qualifying jobs for 30 years may collect up to 120 work credits. Please keep in mind that the number of credits you have in excess of the required number has no bearing on the number of benefits you obtain via this program.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I still receive disability benefits if I don't have enough work credits?

If you don't have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you may still be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a needs-based program designed to assist individuals with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or elderly.

How can I determine my eligibility for SSI benefits?

To determine your eligibility for SSI benefits, you must meet both the disability and financial criteria set by the Social Security Administration (SSA). You will need to provide documentation of your medical condition, as well as your financial information, including your income, assets, and living expenses. The SSA will review your application to determine if you meet the eligibility requirements.

Are there any other options for financial assistance if I don't qualify for SSDI or SSI?

If you don't qualify for SSDI or SSI, you may be eligible for other forms of financial assistance, such as state or local disability programs, Medicaid, food assistance programs, or housing assistance. Additionally, some private organizations or charities may offer assistance to individuals with disabilities. It's important to explore all available resources and programs that may provide support based on your specific needs and circumstances.


To sum up, it depends on whether you're looking into an SSDI or an SSI. In case it's for the SSDI, you must have the appropriate amount of credits in order to qualify for the disability claim. An important thing to remember is that the amount of credits required varies from one age bracket to the next. If you need more information on what conditions automatically qualify you for disability benefits, check out the rest of Disability Help today.

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Zoey Appleton
Zoey has worked with Cheri for years and has been creating the best articles not only for Disability Help but for our readers. Her job hits close to home for she has a brother with special needs. She hopes to see science and technology pave the way for a better life, with Disability Help to cover it and share it with those that need it.
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